4 exciting trends that will define the 2018 education industry

The education industry saw so many notable, significant changes this past year–from an increased focus on augmented reality and other visual technologies to make learning come alive, to the “Googlification” of the classroom with Chromebooks and Google education apps becoming staples–we’ve reached the point where education technology is now the norm, not a luxury.

This makes looking ahead at 2018 exciting because there is so much opportunity for districts and educators to elevate their curriculum with innovation right at their fingertips. On top of that, there is promise for continued education outside of the classroom; just look at Google’s recent $1B pledge over the next five years to help train Americans for jobs in technology. Called Grow with Google, the program targets not only teachers and students, but also local business, job seekers, developers and startups to provide online training initiatives and programs to prepare for tech-focused careers.

The most hopeful potential impact of 2018’s edtech landscape is the opportunity for nurturing skills that will help students succeed in the future of work. Considering how robots could replace 38 percent of jobs in the U.S. over the next 15 years, it’s absolutely vital that we’re arming today’s students, from as early as kindergarten-age, with the ability to succeed once they enter the workforce.

Let’s examine four key trends that are expected to shape the education industry this coming year:

1. Maker spaces will gain popularity in K-12 schools in the U.S.

President Trump’s initiative allotting $2 million per year to make coding a priority in U.S. schools will give way to an increased focus on STEM and coding in schools, reinvigorating the “maker movement.” As the maker movement continues to make its way into the mainstream, a growing number of K-12 schools in the U.S. will build dedicated maker spaces in their districts–helping more students than ever to obtain hands-on experience in STEM, tinkering and technology.

This trend is already being experienced globally. In China, for example, the government is committed to building new maker spaces in schools–to the tune of more than 5,000 new maker spaces opening in schools in 2017, alone.

2. The edtech industry will move from selling physical products to selling services.

While teachers already understand the importance of branching out from the traditional textbook, regulatory roadblocks make it difficult to get approval from administrators to purchase physical edtech products to incorporate into lesson plans. Considering this, edtech companies will likely move away from developing physical products, towards selling services (think: content, curriculum ideas) that can make even the driest subjects fun and interesting.

(Next page: 2 more exciting education industry trends for 2018)

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How to use engineering practices for more effective STEM learning

“What if schools could offer a different approach to STEM education that provided students with truly immersive learning opportunities?” That question came to Ethan Berman, founder of i2 Learning, after the experience of his nine-year old daughter, who liked school but loved solving problems and making things with her own hands, especially, as she put it, “if it was something useful.”

That was what inspired Berman to found Boston STEM Week, which just concluded its second successful year by replacing the usual curriculum for the more than 6,000 students and 300 teachers across 37 Boston middle schools. During this week, schools replace their usual curriculum with projects aimed at building lunar colonies, creating interactive monsters, designing digital games, and practicing surgical techniques.

STEM as an Entry Point to the Heart and Soul

Since its introduction, educators from across Boston have remarked on the program’s ability to engage and empower students. Reminiscing on her experience from STEM Week 2016, Marjorie Soto, principal of the Hurley K-8 Dual Language School in Boston’s South End, put it this way: “I saw kids who were wearing goggles and lab coats, working with models of the human heart to see how the blood goes through it. They were able to make connections and inferences based on what they saw, and connect it to what they had read. They not only experienced this learning, they owned it. For my sixth, seventh, and eighth graders, STEM Week was like finding the entry point into their heart and soul.”

The inaugural STEM Week program was so successful that five Boston schools have signed onto a month-long pilot program that replaces their traditional sixth grade coursework through Thanksgiving week. Using a special curriculum co-developed with MIT that expands the Building a Lunar Colony learning module, these sixth graders will read and write science fiction, discover space exploration, and develop their own form of government in addition to constructing a sustainable colony.

Why Middle School? And Why Engineering?

i2 focused on middle school students because research showed that this was the age at which boys and girls started to lose interest in science and math. “Our theory was if you change the way these subjects are taught, you can change that perception,” said Berman.

The program’s curriculum is based on the engineering design process; this iterative process teaches that it’s okay to make mistakes as long as one is willing to learn from them.

According to Phil Thornton, school liaison at i2, “There are an awful lot of kids these days who are pretty risk averse. They actually don’t want to start something until they have a pretty good idea that they’re on the right path.” Instead, students in the STEM Week program are encouraged to give something a try and, if it doesn’t work, sit down and think about how it could have been better; then take another shot at it.

Of course, it’s in the classrooms where the true test of this approach to STEM education takes place. Research conducted by The Center for Technology and School Change (CTSC) at Teachers College, Columbia University revealed significant differences in student perceptions pre- and post-STEM Week, including increased interest in STEM-related subjects and classes, increased comfort in working on projects, and increased interest in STEM-related careers.

“It is not an overstatement to say that this type of learning environment has the potential to change the trajectory of young people’s lives,” says Geoffrey Rose, principal at South Boston’s Oliver Hazard Perry School. There was a sense of excitement, an atmosphere of accomplishment.  The kids were so excited to show off their learning.”

Principals’ Powerful Stories

At Rose’s school, a student who had been struggling with literacy gained enough coding proficiency over the course of the week that he created a digital game so challenging, no one could get through it. Rose was thrilled for the boy, “Now, he has a success that he can revisit and draw from when faced with other challenges.”

Rose recalled watching one of his 7th graders demonstrate his digital monster to a kindergartener. “The boy had learned enough coding to get the monster to light up, and the younger kid was just full of questions that the older boy was patiently explaining and answering.”

As STEM Week evolves into STEM month, Berman and Thornton are thinking about getting the idea in to as many schools in the city as possible. “We’re thinking about what we call i2 month,” says Berman, “because it’s not just STEM; then maybe a conversation about doing a semester.”

Marjorie Soto is already way ahead of them; she saw how STEM Week changed her students, many of whom are Latino and from low socioeconomic homes. “It stayed with them for the rest of the school year,” she says, “I want this program to start in the fifth grade,” she says, “and I want it to last all year.”

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Edtech is booming-but does it make better teachers?

Kids are natural learners, but sometimes schools create an environment where learning does not happen naturally. Many children are struggling with such essential skills like problem-solving, creative thinking and writing, and simple implementation of tablets and ebooks does little to address this problem.

According to the Yale Center of Teaching and Learning research 2017, using technology in the classroom appears to have both bright and dark sides. On one hand, engagement may improve when students have a chance to use Twitter for their classroom and homework activities. On the other hand, unlimited internet exposure may wreak havoc on their motivation and final grade.

Also, using technology in the classroom prepares students for their future lives in technological environment. However, positive shifts are only possible with a cautious approach where students are not dependent on the tech, and when teachers know exactly what to do with edtech tools for education.

The Schools and the Changes

The biggest tech innovations that get launched in the educational sphere belong to the eLearning medium: social networking and collaborative and web-based platforms for studying.

ELearning is not a simple issue of installing a small application on a laptop–it is an important choice; the choice that will determine whether the learning will be effective.

Every technology should be applied reasonably. So how can educators determine if the apps and educational tools applied in the classroom serve the purpose of making education optimal? This is where we need to dig deeper.

(Next page: Edtech tools and tips for teachers that can make a real difference in learning)

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The top 5 cybersecurity threats for schools

You’d be hard-pressed today to find a school that doesn’t consider safety a high priority. We go to great lengths to keep those inside school walls safe, running drills and spreading awareness in case of threat. There’s one kind of threat schools often overlook when it comes to safety, however, and that’s cyber attack.

Cybersecurity isn’t a new concern by any means—it’s just one that’s taken many schools quite a long time to develop a safety plan. With recent ransomware attacks like WannaCry and Petya, the potential theft and leakage of data, particularly confidential information, should be on the minds of all school leaders.

If your school hasn’t thought about cybersecurity as a growing concern, it’s time to learn what the threats are and what you should be doing to keep your school, and its data, protected. To start, here are the top five cybersecurity threats schools face and how you should prepare:

1. Link Security

From ransomware to phishing and other types of security breaches, direct contact is the number one way that you can create a vulnerability in your system. Those who commit these online crimes are finding smarter and sneakier ways to infiltrate your data every day. Sometimes the attack can even come as an email from a legitimate sender, or appear to be a perfectly normal message on social media. The goal is usually to get you to click on a link.

Solution: Make sure the security preferences for your email account(s) are set up to filter spamming, phishing and executable files that aren’t recognized. There are also many email scanners on the market that can restrict macro script files and authenticate inbound mail.

2. Unknown Devices

It’s not just the devices themselves you have to worry about–you also need to protect your network as a whole. While precautions must be taken with the devices your school owns, you also need to consider the devices students and staff bring with them that access your network.

Solution: Your IT system should include a solution that tracks all devices, including those not owned by your school, that enter the network.

3. Out of Date Technology

Contrary to popular misconception, user interaction isn’t always required for a cyber attack to be launched. The WannaCry attack targeted hundreds of computers all with the same security vulnerability on their Windows operating systems. While newer versions of Windows now come with that weakness patched, the victims were all users who hadn’t updated to the latest OS or downloaded the necessary patch.

Solution: Again, an IT solution that tracks all devices is important, but one that can also check on software upgrades and block access to certain apps is ideal.

(Next page: 2 more common cybersecurity threats and possible solutions)

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Wow! District creates revolutionary computer science program for K-12 students

Through a partnership with nonprofit Nextech and a collaboration with Apple, the Metropolitan School District (MSD) of Decatur Township in Indiana became the first school district in the state to implement a K-12 Computer Science Pathway.

MSD of Decatur Township is a diverse, nationally recognized school district that uses an innovative and personalized, small-learning community approach. The entire district offers multiple learning pathways to its students, encouraging a deeper, more applicable learning environment.

An Exciting, New Computer Science Program

This new program gives all district students the opportunity to develop a foundation of computer science knowledge and learn new approaches to problem solving, creativity and critical thinking in a world that is increasingly influenced by technology.

Throughout the Decatur Township school system, more than 200 middle and high school students have enrolled in three different computer science courses covering topics ranging from simple design, coding and strategies to more technical courses including app development, cyber security and database analytics.

That number is expected to grow, as the district’s nonprofit partner Nextech typically sees an average of a 580 percent increase in student enrollment over a three-year period.

How the Program Works

Nextech connects educators, nonprofits and entrepreneurs to deliver K-12 computer science education and work-based learning programs with the end goal of inspiring and enabling students from all backgrounds to pursue careers in technology. Nextech’s training program serves as more than just an educational workshop, and instead offers a continuous, year-long professional development program that provides teachers with the content, instructional strategies and real-world context needed to teach computer science.

Prior to this school year, nearly 150 Decatur Township teachers participated in Nextech’s training on a variety of computer science-related topics and were provided with additional content knowledge, instructional strategies, industry experience and resources to deliver the district’s new computer science curriculum to students. The training sessions required a rigorous 74-hour commitment where teachers learned the ins and outs of the Code.org curriculum and received a first-hand look into the computer science industry. In addition, Decatur elementary and middle school teachers underwent intensive training to learn how to seamlessly incorporate basic computer science skills into their existing curriculum and lesson plans.

(Next page: Leading the pack in computer science programs with more partnerships; innovative curriculum)

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Superintendents grapple with finding stellar teachers

Concerns around finding highly-qualified teachers and principals plague today’s district superintendents, according to a new Gallup poll.

Two-thirds of district superintendents in a new survey said the quantity of new teacher candidates is decreasing, and 43 percent said new principal candidates are decreasing.

Participating district superintendents tended to rate their districts as less effective at recruiting talented teachers and principals than they are at selecting, developing and retaining them, according to the poll.

Forty-two percent of superintendents report that they are engaged with their job–higher than U.S. workers nationally. District superintendents in city, suburban and larger districts tend to display higher levels of job engagement, according to the study.

(Next page: What are superintendents’ greatest challenges?)

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Video of the Week: 3 ways to help students build empathy using technology

Ed. note: Video of the Week picks are supplied by the editors of Common Sense Education, which helps educators find the best ed-tech tools, learn best practices for teaching with tech, and equip students with the skills they need to use technology safely and responsibly. Click here to watch the video at Common Sense Education.

Video Description: Can your students build empathy skills even while using technology? Yes! In fact, exercises that help students build empathy in digital spaces are a crucial part of positive social and emotional learning. Plus, using empathy skills online is integral for helping kids become responsible digital citizens. Here are three ways teachers can give students practice using empathy online — just like they would in face-to-face situations. For more, check out the article, We All Teach SEL: Empathy Activities for Students.

Video:

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App of the Week: Khan Academy helps the brain grow

Ed. noteApp of the Week picks are now being curated by the editors of Common Sense Education, which helps educators find the best ed-tech tools, learn best practices for teaching with tech, and equip students with the skills they need to use technology safely and responsibly. Click here to read the full app review.

What’s It Like? 

LearnStorm is a free six-week course through Khan Academy that helps encourage growth mindset and resiliency skills for students in grades 3-12. The website begins with a teacher dashboard that introduces you to the content and allows you to add your students to the class via the Khan Academy interface. LearnStorm then diverts students to the current weekly activity based on their progress.

Price: Free

Grades: 3-12

Rating: 4/5

Pros: Step-by-step, fillable lessons are engaging and help students set positive goals and earn rewards.

Cons: Students may still need additional assistance; requires some extra time for setup and planning.

Bottom line: Wonderful, easy-to-use lessons spur self-reflection and a growth mindset in students.

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Still? Most teachers feel unprepared to use technology in the classroom

An alarmingly large majority of U.S. teachers–78 percent–say they feel they haven’t received the training they need to teach with technology in the classroom, according to new research.

The study from edtech and coding company SAM Labs, conducted online with independent research firm 72 Point, outlines the opportunities teachers see when it comes to technology in the classroom, as well as some of the biggest challenges the U.S. education system faces related to computer science and coding.

Following the White House’s recent $200M commitment to support coding and computer science in U.S. schools, and with more than 500,000 computing jobs available but only 50,000 computer science graduates each year, the study asserts that it is essential to take a hard look at how technology is implemented in public schools.

Surveyed educators said technology is critical for students’ development–82 percent of U.S. teachers believe that students who use technology in the classroom are more prepared for their future careers.

(Next page: In what subjects do students show the most improvement after technology is used?)

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3 ways to reimagine learning spaces

As schools depart from traditional instructional methods and environments, some education leaders are discovering how a combination of blended learning and reimagined physical learning spaces can lead to better student engagement and achievement.

Redesigning physical learning spaces can lead to brain-friendly learning and encourage students to become more engaged.

And when learning spaces are flexible, they provide more modern learning experiences and meet various needs, such as small-group collaboration, large-group instruction, and individual study or review.

whitepaper from Evergreen Education Group and Fuel Education explores how three schools’ blended learning programs have redesigned their learning spaces to encourage student and teacher success.

(Next page: How each school uses learning space to its advantage)

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